Ulive art inspired by the now, with incomprehensible narratives for a part of the most conservative society, broke the artistic scene of Porto Alegre in 1992, with the inauguration do MACRS - Museum of Contemporary Art of Rio Grande do Sul. Today, almost 30 years later, with a different atmosphere, the museum launches its first general catalog with 1.813 works from the collection, by 921 artists. Within this context the publication can be defined as a work in progress because, for sure, it will renew itself from time to time. The project was organized over a period of two years and the final execution took six months, worked under the pressure of time. The coordination is by Vera Pellin, cultural manager, with guidance from Maria Amélia Bulhões, researcher and curator of the project. This confluence of efforts made practically at the same time resulted in a book of more than 300 pages, with works that exemplify the dissolution of borders and the libertarian phase of contemporary art, especially from the 1970s/80s. It also offers tools to discuss contexts and the museum's view of contemporaneity.
To mark the event, a large exhibition, designed from a clipping of the collection, displays 70 works that introduce the visitor to the revealing expressions of contemporaneity in photographs, installations, performances, paintings, engravings, videos and objects, curated by Maria Amélia , critic and president of ABCA – Brazilian Association of Art Critics. The two events explore the simultaneity of propositions and the desire to identify a collection that spans from the 1970s to the present day. Edited in Portuguese, Spanish and English, the publication can be searched on the project website www.acervomacrs.com . For André Venzon, director of the museum, the catalog is the result of a project that highlights the entirety of the works in the collection, making it permanently accessible.
Art moves the human being in a communicative way, there is no isolated art, locked in itself, as Hélio Pelegrino, the poet of psychoanalysis, says. The persistence of these relationships makes art a plural act. An expressive cast of Brazilian artists has been gathered over three decades at MACRS. Among them are Cildo Meirelles, Regina Silveira, Nelson Leirner, Carlos Vergara, Carlos Fajardo, Rosângela Rennó, Paulo Nazaré, Rochelle Costi, Lucia Koch, Jorge Menna Barreto and Nuno Ramos. Some works were acquireds by the museum, others donated by artists and/or individuals and still by the Mercosul Biennial. One of the outstanding features of the set is that 47% of the authors are women, which evokes an interesting debate that reaches sexist borders. This is a rare fact that goes against what happens in most museums around the world. Long before a type of “political correctness” occupied the art scene and obsessively tried to fit art into a social function, “the museum already brought works that investigate non-hegemonic universes, such as the feminine, the black, the indigenous or the marginal, seeking to introduce criticism and debates on gender, ethnicities and conflicting social relations in the art system”, as exemplified by Maria Amélia. The curator also emphasizes that the body is a strong presence, putting on the agenda repressed aspects of sexuality. “The relationship with all these issues has space in the collection as a whole”.
As with MAC-USP (São Paulo), created in 1963, but which only managed to get its main and definitive headquarters in the former Detran in 2012, MACRS also does not have its own location. It works on the 6th floor of the Casa de Cultura Mario Quintana, unable to expose a large part of its set. However, Maria Amélia guarantees that there is already a place for the definitive headquarters in the 4th District, an old factory district in Porto Alegre. "We've had other attempts and many unfulfilled promises, now the ordinance is out, there's no going back". The fact that the museum has no headquarters, according to the curator, is due to the fact that in past decades, part of society and politicians were resistant to contemporary art for not understanding it, hence the difficulty in obtaining donations and sponsorships. The city is the place of knowledge, freedom and experimentation, so there is no way to stop the artistic effervescence in the city promoted by young artists who transited in art spaces such as Torreão, commanded by Elida Tessler and Jailton Moreira and which lasted from 1993 to 2009. But, without a doubt, the lever of contemporary art in Porto Alegre was the emergence of the Mercosul Biennial in 1997, which re-signified the space and cultural role of the city in the international context. Throughout the editions, he exhibited hundreds of national and foreign artists who explore all kinds of interdisciplinary creations, demonstrating the constant mutations of contemporary art.
We are in a moment of reflexive retreat due to the pandemic, with a political system heading towards the abyss and all sorts of reflections about the true function of art in society. The maxim that every city that has a Bienal develops an active art circuit is not so valid for Porto Alegre. According to Maria Amélia, there are still few galleries dedicated to contemporary art. “There was a substantial growth of cultural institutions such as the Mercosul Biennial Foundation, Farol Santander, the Iberê Camargo Foundation, the Ling Institute.” She also mentions the importance of the postgraduate course in art at UFRGS- Universidade do Rio Grande do Sul, where she teaches, and the professionalization of a technical body of assemblers, producers, curators, in addition to an active critical mass. “Even if the gallery circuit is not as strong as it could be, given the number of student artists leaving specialization courses at UFRGS, the city is better equipped, but there is still much to conquer”, concludes Maria Amélia.
Service: MACRS (Museum of Contemporary Art of Rio Grande do Sul) 6th floor of the Casa de Cultura Mario Quintana – Rua dos Andradas, 736 – Centro Histórico, Porto Alegre.